I'm sure many of you have seen the recent blog post being shared all over facebook and twitter from a mother of teenage boys addressed to teenage girls. The post is here and reading it will give context to this post if you haven't seen it already. The people sharing this in my feeds (and there have been MANY) are all women, most mothers, and some even mothers to teenage girls. The people sharing this post are my friends and acquaintances and I know and like them all. These people have good hearts and I don't doubt for a second that they only want what's best for their families. However, I wonder what message a post like this is really sending.
The gist of the post is that the author, Mrs. Hall, disapproves of the female friends her boys have on facebook posting sexy photos of themselves. She writes that her family often sits around the dining room table perusing her sons social media feeds and blocking any girl who posts anything she deems too provocative or unworthy of her sons attention.
Look, I get it. It's got to be uncomfortable being a parent to a teenager and knowing they're having all these new thoughts and feelings as those hormones start coursing through their brand new maturing bodies. I wouldn't necessarily like knowing my kid was looking at (and probably enjoying) that sexy selfie taken by the girl from his chemistry class. It's just weird and awkward as a parent, right? But is deleting the girl from their list of facebook friends really the answer? Do we even need an answer? Is there even a problem other than our own parental discomfort with watching our babies grow up and find their sexuality?
You won't find me posing bra-less with an extra-arched back taking duck faced pictures in the bathroom mirror anytime in the future. But I'd like to think I'm not so far removed from that age that I don't remember a time when that would have been appealing. These young teens are new to these bodies of theirs. They're trying to figure out what to do with these new boobs and hips and long legs. It's all a part of growing up. I may not like it if my teenage daughter were to take a picture of herself in her "scantily clad pjs" but I can still understand why she might want to. This is a right of passage. This wanting attention from the opposite sex, this wanting to be noticed. It's nothing new and it's perfectly normal.
And if this is how we treat our girls, why do our boys not get this same treatment? Why did Mrs. Hall find it perfectly acceptable to write an entire scathing post about underdressed girls vying for the attention of innocent boys illustrated with pictures of her own teenage boys, shirtless, soaking wet and doing muscle poses in their bathing suits? No really, those were originally the pictures she had in the post. I can't even make this stuff up. She has since switched them out with fully clothed versions instead. But the hypocrisy remains. How is it any worse for a girl to stick out her boobs and do a "red carpet pose" than it is for her own sons to flex their muscles and pose for the camera half dressed? Why are adults so afraid that these evil dominatrix 14 year old vixens will spoil the perfectly proper and innocent minds of their 14 year old male counterparts? Let's get real here, they're all the same, they're all doing the same exact things. Boy or girl, they're just teenagers trying to be noticed and trying to show off their new adult bodies. They're proud of them, and why shouldn't they be? What's so wrong with embracing our bodies? Why are we always trying to shame our girls? Hey you, 14 year old girls... your boobs are perfect. Good for you! (If anything I'm just jealous.)
So if teenagers are all the same then why are the girls always to blame? How about each person is responsible for their own morality, and how about trusting your sons just a little and not policing every piece of media they will ever encounter? Do you think blocking these girls from their facebook feeds will block them from their lives? They'll still be in chemistry class monday morning, Mrs. Hall. They will still all be proud owners of their brand new adult bodies so let's start treating them like adults even just a little. Let's teach our sons that girls may dress however they want to dress and it is not up to the girls to dress and act and look however the boys need them to dress and act and look so they won't be viewed in a sexual way. And sons, even if you have to look at a million pictures of your scantily clad peers you are still expected to treat each and every one of them like a person. Do you think you can do that? I believe in you! And I think you shouldn't blame your thoughts and feelings and behaviors on anyone but yourself.
Instead of keeping our boys from seeing anything that they can't "easily un-see" let's let them face those challenges and help them navigate this rocky teenage period of self discovery with compassion and understanding. Let them learn from these challenges and let these experiences form them into mature, respectful men. Keeping them away from photos and posts is just babysitting their morality for them. Let them stand up and own it. Let them be responsible and be expected to act with integrity no matter what situation they are in. Stop babying them. Stop being so afraid. Teenage sexuality is not inherently evil, so please let's not make it out to be.
Two other links I love that relate...